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an arm of heavy cavalry, with horsemen protected by cuirasses and armed with broadswords, pistols, and carbines. Cuirassiers appeared in Western Europe in the late 17th century. Their precursors were the gendarmes in France and the reiters in Germany, Austria, and Sweden. In the 18th and early 19th centuries cuirassier regiments designed for delivering decisive strikes were to be found in most European armies. By the beginning of the 20th century the cuirassiers had been abolished (except for the dress uniform) and the name “cuirassier” became traditional for various regiments in certain armies.
In Russia the first regiment of cuirassiers (the Life Guards Horse Regiment) was formed in November 1731. By 1740 there were four cuirassier regiments, and by 1796 their number had risen to 16. Before the Patriotic War of 1812 there were ten cuirassier regiments; after the war there were 12, which made up three cuirassier divisions. In 1860 they were reorganized as dragoons, with the exception of four guards regiments (the Cavalry Guards, the Horse Guards, and two called His Majesty’s Cuirassiers and Her Majesty’s Cuirassiers, who were distinguished by the color of their uniforms, that is, the “yellow” and “blue” cuirassiers) that existed until 1917.